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Decision No. 15,524

Appeal of MIAN A. GHAFFAR, on behalf of his children AISHA and RIJAA, from action of the Board of Education of the Valley Stream Central High School District regarding transportation.

 

Decision No. 15,524

(February 2, 2007)

 

Guercio & Guercio, attorneys for respondent, John P. Sheahan, Esq., of counsel

 

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of the Board of Education of the Valley Stream Central High School District (“respondent”) to deny his children transportation to a nonpublic school for the 2006-2007 school year.  The appeal must be dismissed.

 

By letter dated September 7, 2006, petitioner requested transportation to a nonpublic school for his two seventh-grade children for the 2006-2007 school year.  By letter dated September 8, 2006, respondent’s superintendent advised petitioner that his request was denied because it was not submitted before the April 1 deadline for transportation requests.  The superintendent further explained that the district would incur an additional expense if the request were granted.  On September 13, 2006, respondent affirmed the superintendent’s determination and this appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on October 13, 2006.

 

Petitioner contends that his transportation request was late because he was unaware of the April 1 deadline.  Petitioner also alleges that respondent currently sends a school bus to his home to pick up his other two children who are in the second and third grades at the same nonpublic school and, therefore, there is a bus going to the school in question with empty seats.

 

Respondent contends that petitioner’s request for transportation was untimely and, therefore, its decision to deny petitioner’s request was not arbitrary or capricious.  Respondent further alleges that it would incur additional costs to transport petitioner’s children to the nonpublic school. 

 

Education Law §3635(2) requires that an application for transportation to a nonpublic school must be submitted no later than the first day of April preceding the school year for which transportation is requested or, if the parents or guardian of a child did not reside in the district on April 1, within 30 days after establishing residency in the district.  The purpose of this deadline is to enable school districts to budget funds and make necessary arrangements to provide transportation reasonably and economically  (Appeal of S.M., 44 Ed Dept Rep 391, Decision No. 15,208; Appeal of J.D., 42 id. 373; Decision No. 14,884; Appeal of Cusumano, 42 id. 309, Decision No. 14,864).  However, a district may not reject a late request for transportation if there is a reasonable explanation for the delay (Education Law §3635[2]; Appeal of S.M., 44 Ed Dept Rep 391, Decision No. 15,208; Appeal of Davila, 41 id. 419, Decision No. 14,732).  In the first instance, it is the responsibility of the board of education to determine whether a parent has offered a reasonable explanation for submitting a late request (Appeal of Wheelwright, 41 Ed Dept Rep 454, Decision No. 14,744).  The board’s determination will not be set aside unless it constitutes an abuse of discretion (Appeal of Gal, 42 Ed Dept Rep 170, Decision No. 14,809; Appeal of Wheelwright, 41 id. 454, Decision No. 14,744.)

 

Petitioner asserts that he was unaware of the deadline.  A board of education need not accept ignorance of the April 1 deadline as a reasonable excuse for failure to file a timely transportation request (Appeal of Gal, 42 Ed Dept Rep 170, Decision No. 14,809; Appeal of Wheelwright, 41 id. 454, Decision No. 14,744).  Accordingly, petitioner’s ignorance of the filing requirement does not excuse his failure to file a timely request.  Moreover, the record demonstrates that respondent notified the public of the deadline for transportation requests, by publishing a notice in the local papers and sending all sixth-grade parents in the district a copy of the district’s transportation policy and an application form. 

 

     However, even absent a reasonable explanation for the delay, a late transportation request must be granted if the requested transportation can be provided under existing transportation arrangements at no additional cost to the district (Appeal of S.M., 44 Ed Dept Rep 391, Decision No. 15,208; Appeal of Cusumano, 42 id. 309, Decision No. 14,864).  While petitioner alleges that there are empty seats on the bus to the nonpublic school, respondent alleges that it contracts for private school transportation on a per-pupil basis and would incur an additional expense of $690 per student, per month, to transport petitioner’s children to the nonpublic school for the 2006-2007 school year.  Petitioner has failed to refute respondent’s contention.  Under these circumstances, I conclude that respondent has not abused its discretion in denying petitioner’s late transportation request (seeAppeal of Vasilakos, 46 Ed Dept Rep ___, Decision No. 15,463; Appeal of S.M., 44 id. 391, Decision No. 15,208; Appeal of Joanne M., 40 id. 686, Decision No. 14,584).

 

In light of this disposition, I need not address the parties’ remaining contentions. 

 

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE